Welcome to my webspace. I am a postdoc researcher at MIT. I was born in Northeastern China, in a city called Shenyang. I came to the United States at the age of 19 and have studied and worked here for more than 15 years. I’ve lived and worked in Paris, France for 3 years. I am now living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA with my wife, a textile artist fom Mexico, and our son, who is 7 years old. My wife and I are makers in our hearts and soul. In addition to my research, I enjoy crafting, fixing, inventing and making strange things in our home studio and small machine shop.
I investigate life’s origins and their records in the distant past and beyond our own planet amongst the stars. To do this, I take an environment-centered and holistic approach to investivate life’s origins. My primary toolkit to answer questions regarding early environment is via controlled experiments in the laboratory and in the field. By collecting rich environmental data from state-of-art sensors, and by modifying the environment and probing for responses, my research centers on resolving interactions between life and the environment, and track co-evolutionary relationships between the two.
My research is interdisciplinery and curiosity driven. It crosses academic disciplines such as Geology, Geochemistry, Geomicrobiology, Paleoentology, Ecology, Earth Evolution, Data Science and more. Here I state the high-level objectives while much more detailed descriptions for each topic can be found in the Projects page.
Topic 1: Primitive surface environments on early Earth/Mars (Astrobiology)
My current research at MIT is motivated by recent analog experimental observations that fine-grained basalt-water interactions under a high pCO2 anaerobic atomsphere at and below room-temperature conditions are highly conductive to hydrogen gas production due to low redox potential. At the same time, an amorphous phase that resemble Fe-rich clay minerals were rapidly forming. At this low redox potential, it appears that organic synthesis is possible and can form a primitive carbon cycle. I am currently investigating this system and excited about the prospects of this research for astrobiology. Publications of this work will come out very soon. Please stay tuned.
Topic 2: Fossilization mechanisms
I take laboratory and field experimental approaches to investigate the process of microbial fossil formation. Central to this research is to understand three kinds of common materials: amorphous silica, carbonate and silicate (clay) minerals that are very important at preserving the morphological and chemical signatures of life. These materials also work in very different ways. My innovation and contribution in this research is to design and build efficient data logging and data analytics platforms that can help track solution composition, electrochemistry and physical environmental characterics during mineralization and fossilization.
Topic 3: Microbial sedimentology
I also investigate physical sedimentological structure formation in relation with microbial community growth and other activities, such as motility, metabolisms and production of exopolymers. Some examples under this topic are stromatolite formation, microbial hydrodynamic responses under fluid flow, and